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A RUMINATION UPON THE GREATEST HAPPINESS PRINCIPLE,
AND OTHER MATTERS.
June rises upon us like a sweet star on the grounds and across the park, and of the troubled night, before which the dark his venerable and cheerful look, suggests a clouds drift, the mists vanish, and a serene very different notion of the philosopher light spreads over the world. The trees from that which we cannot help forming throw out their buds and blossoms in the from his crude and laborious treatises, in sun; the fresh and verdant earth rejoices in which, whatever was excellent in design, fertility; and flowers, no longer growing in was obscured by the phraseology. But pain, and against the cutting winds and the whole theory of Benthamite utility is nipping frost, laugh out of the soil like the false in the view which it takes of society; radiant faces of young holyday ups.
and no fashion of words or equivocation What merry pranks used to be played in of sophistry can rectify the grand error on June—what jousts used to throng the which it is based. Its exposition of utility fields—what love-dramas used to be enacted is the utility of the hands, of the grosser in the green lanes and lonely woods, and appetites, of supply and demand, of equiby the fresh sparkling streams—what table distribution of poperty, and of legal poetry used to grow upon the season as guarantees; all of which are very admirable truly and as healthfully as acorns upon the in their kind, but all of which added tooak. The good old times! when we had gether will not compensate for the absence our own Arcadia, and when the visions of of the one utility of the beautiful which Sydney were embodied in the daylight (more ennobles life, and to which more of homesteads of England. The world is out human happiness is to be attributed, than of tune. Her old instrument has been so to the wisest articles of legislation. There long in use that its music seems to have is nothing in Jeremy Bentham's philosophy died upon its strings, and, as grubbing up- about that sense of pleasure which refines holsterers sometimes convert superannuated and purifies, which makes men wiser by pianos into work-tables and sideboards, making them better, and happier by elepeople seem to have changed the world vating them above grovelling desires. Prointo a mere piece of useful mechanism. vided the hands be employed, and the head All the fine imagination that was wont to occupied, and the whole community be kept infuse such rapture into life appears to be going at a certain ratio per man, the deworn out, and we have nothing left but mands of the philosopher are satisfied, the sea-shell without its Naiad-voices ! nothing more is required to complete the
Utility has set in. The greatest happi- Utopia of practical utility. There is no ness of the greatest number has made room for the play of invention—no excuse the majority of mankind miserable. The for letting in a ray of joy upon the scene, search after happiness upon a numerical every thing is to be real, literal, and fitted scale has quenched individual enthusiasm, into its place, more compact than the and nobody is now allowed to be happy parallelograms of Owen, and as uniform unless he be happy according to the regu as multiplied counterparts: not one head lation. Jeremy Bentham had not a par must break out of the line, nobody must. ticle of true sympathy in his nature, not be pleased at his own pleasure, but at the withstanding that he wanted to make a pleasures of every body else, the being code of laws for Russia, and to reform the pleased consisting, not in one's own sensacontentious democracies of America. The tions, but in a calculation of the sensations only facts we ever heard of Jeremy Ben- of the majority. According to this plan tham that redeemed him from the chilly of social regeneration, the whole machinery ideal of a mere formalist, were his silver of the world's contentment would be reguhair, and his love of his garden at the back lated by a species of Joint-Stock Happiof Queen-square, and looking upon St. ness Company. James's Park. Captain Parry's account of We ask no man to define in what his his morning interview with the old man, happiness consists; but there can be no of the delight with which he ran through difficulty in ascertaining in what it does
vol. 8.-10. VI.-_JUNE, 1837.
not consist. The reflection of happiness is Ninety-nine in every hundred of that delightful. Look at the reapers in the class of persons who set up for the fine field bending over the golden crops, hear humanities will call this the doctrine of their songs floating on the undulating air, selfishness; but they belong to the meresee how gladness dances in their eyes, and tricious order who hang garlands on tombs, health invigorates their motions. The and fancy that they are developing a papicture produces a feeling of satisfaction and thetic sentiment—who embellish cold hearts rejoicing, greater perhaps than that which with flaunting emblems and who feign as we attribute to the labouring groups, who, a grace that which they do not feel as a like actors on the stage, undergo much toil passion. There is nothing so utterly unfor these smiles that brighten their faces. selfish as profound happiness.
It begets But this is what may be called an emotion happiness—it pervades the surrounding -we are moved to pity or indignation by atmosphere-it casts its radiance upon every passing sights--we are touched or wounded human creature within its reach. Kindby a word -- but the influence is brief, as ness generates kindness, and happiness the source is sudden and unexpected. Ob- makes us kind, and temperate, and consijects and sounds, and accidental circum- derate, and forgiving. But let a Benthastances operate upon us like electric shocks; mite—if he be not afraid to step out of but they do not enter into our plans of his creed-try the experiment for himself. life—we do not build hope or permanent Let him endeavour to get happy on his enjoyment upon them—they do not finally own account, without thinking whether the affect our temperament, unless we culti- greater or the lesser number are happy, vate the sensibility to which they appeal, and we will answer for it that he will sucand so at last become more capable of ap- ceed, without intending it, in diffusing preciating happiness in ourselves by com more happiness, or that pleasure which is prehending it better in others. They are nearest akin to it, than if he were to labour occasional and transient, and do not rest all his life through for the accomplishment long enough with us to give us a deep of his gregarious theory of carrying haprelish of the springs from which they flow. piness by the vote. They suggest but do not supply aliment It is one of the inexplicable conditions for the yearning heart. They are plea- of that mysterious series of linked thoughts surable in the highest degree, but they do called “association of ideas," that it frenot constitute happiness, which, diffusive quently happens when we fall into a train as it is in its results, must, let the philan- of rumination on any particular subject, thropists say what they may, originate we are suddenly struck with a new fancy within ourselves, and comprehend our that carries us into a topic to all intents selves as its primary and indispensable and purposes diametrically contrasted with element. Whoever thinks, or affects to it. We take it for granted that there think, that happiness is, like the property must be in such cases an occult analogy doctrine of the St. Simonians, a possession of which we are totally ignorant, or that in common, greatly deceives himself, or there is an invisible connection between tries to deceive others. Do we not garner antagonist states of being that realizes that up our affections with a miser's care-the bold figure of speech which tells us that best and least selfish amongst us? Do we extremes meet. Be that as it may, we not watch the object of these affections had no sooner satisfied ourselves that our with absorbing anxiety? Is wealth, or notions of happiness were thoroughly sybaambition, or any of the mere worldly ritic than, by some strange mental tranhonours and pomps, half so valuable in sition, we fell upon a consideration of the our estimation as those interchanges of disagreeable sensations that must accomdevotion, which are incommunicable to pany the process of being hanged. It is the world at large, and which would lose more than probable that this odd topic was all their spirit and essence of deep love, suggested by a rumination upon the Benwere they not emphatically and wholly thamite philosophy, for as men are usually within ourselves ? It is the paltry finesse hanged for the benefit of their country, so of people who desire to make a reputation we suppose that hanging must be esteemed for being extravagantly amiable, to say to be one of the means of securing the that one's happiness consists in any thing greatest amount of happiness to the greatest else than in that which is one's own-infelt number. The hanged man is a unit-the and inseparable.
multitude, who are terror-struck by his finding a case thickly studded with nails, example, and forcibly inipressed with the after repeated attempts to open it, exnecessity of obeying the laws, are countless. claimed, “ Faith, the boy that packed this So far as the statistics of the question are case must have been paid by the day!” concerned there can be no doubt that the The superfluous industry bestowed upon happiness is not only at one side, but that the newspaper reports suggests a similar it is beyond a doubt at the side of the suspicion. greater number.
The operation of the greatest happiness Yet, awful as the sight and the occasion principle upon the mind of the culprit are, it does not appear either that the must be allowed to be salutary and condelinquent is so seriously agitated by it as soling, however it may affect other people. might be expected, or that crime is dimi If it be a man's bounden duty to promote, nished by repeated exhibitions of the under all circumstances, the greatest happipenalty. We know that the condemned ness of the greatest number; and if his felon generally breakfasts heartily on the own happiness ought to consist in the morning of execution, that he shakes hands happiness of the majority, then the crimiwith his fellow-prisoners, leaves parting nal who ascends the scaffold ought to be injunctions behind him, and, it may be perfectly happy, since the expiation of his said, puts his house in order before he crime is a contribution to the happiness of submits himself to the death. And it is the general stock, of which his own ought not less worthy of note, that the commis to form a part. He must no more consult sion of a murder, and the consequent detec- his own misery, than other people their tion and publication of all the minute own pleasure: he has to think only of the circumstances and personal details con greatest number, and to rejoice in that nected with it, instead of deterring others which confers satisfaction upon them. The from pursuing the same course, are usually individual nature is abolished in him. He followed up by other savage deeds that has no right, under this wise ordonnance, appear almost as if they were enacted in a to feel his own pains—it is his privilege frenzy of imitation. We need not revert to belong to the mass, and he ought to to the recent case of Greenacre, and the participate in their pleasure. tragedies that have since taken place, in It would be a psychological curiosity to proof of a fact which the calendars have a Benthamite hanged: to see with regularly testified ever since the press has what true ardour he would carry out to brought to such perfection the art of the last extremity the doctrine of his phiwriting by the line. The vicious excess losophy, practically exemplifying, in a to which the newspapers carry their reports way that certainly would not admit of any of these occurrences—the vast quantity of further doubt, the self-subjugating influsmall speculations which they contrive to ences of his belief. If a man would suffer gather up, and to extend over their columns to be hanged with pleasure to himself in day after day—the biographical fragments the vindication of a theory of morals and which they accumulate, with an industry legislation, the world would no longer worthy of Boswell himself-the variety of have an excuse for questioning the fact auxiliary matters which they draw in to that there are persons who really entertain the main body of mingled fact and fiction principles against which Nature rebels. -and the elaborate style in which the But until we have some such illustration whole is prepared, is to be attributed less of the sincerity of the sect we may be to the taste of the public, which it excites excused for being a little incredulous on rather than gratifies, than to the mode of the subject. payment adopted for intelligence of this But taking it all for granted—admitting description. If the reporters of such direful wholly that the happiness of the greatest histories were paid by the veracity, and number is the best kind of happiness for not by the quantity of their supply, we the world, and that all other sorts of should have much shorter narratives of happiness are counterfeits, delusions, and horror, and the moral agency of the phantasms—let us see the ingredients of journals would be greatly improved. An which it must necessarily be composed. English lady, on one occasion upon landing Who are the greatest number? Answer, on the Irish coast, employed some porters ye brazen-throated multitudes that, swarmto unpack her luggage, and one of them, ing like Syria's locusts, blot out the fair